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How to make your own energy bar

5 Easy Homemade Energy Bars

Do you want tasty treats to help energize your workout? Then consider making your own “energy” bars. Beyond great taste, you will have control over the ingredients. You’ll likely save money too!

Although clever marketing fools many, most commercial bars are nothing special.  You can create delicious bars in your own kitchen that will power your workout just as well, if not better, than an expensive bar.

And you don’t need special ingredients. In fact, many homemade energy bar recipes tend to be overly complicated and claim to be healthy because of hyped-up ingredients like coconut oil, agave nectar, or a protein powder.  Or they boast being “naturally sweetened” implying that something like organic brown rice syrup,  coconut sugar, or sugar from dried fruit is better than regular sugar (it isn’t).

READ  Are "Natural" Sweeteners Healthier than Sugar?

Although I recommend limiting sugars when you’re not active, sugar will fuel your working muscles and might help your workout performance if you’re exercising vigorously and/or for long periods. In fact, many of the harms attributed to sugar have to do with how it is metabolized when sedentary, or in sedentary individuals, not in athletes.

Here are five bars that rely on simple whole foods available in most grocery stores. They provide healthy fats, but are generally low in fat, because during exercise your muscles require carbohydrates as fuel.

A potential downside of homemade bars is the time required to make them.  But give it a try! Make a batch and freeze so you’ll have a convenient and portable snack on hand when you need it.

Ginger Bars with Chocolate

These spicy bars are amazingly delicious! The ginger delivers a good zing, and the molasses keeps them dense and fudgy. You can whip these up pretty quickly, which will make your entire house smell pretty wonderful.  These bars are great workout fuel, but certainly tasty enough for a lunchbox treat or as a sweet with coffee or tea.

You can substitute a different nut or seed butter for the peanut butter. I’ve tried tahini – sesame seed butter – and almond butter would work well.

Sheila’s Quick & Easy Oatmeal Bars

These bars feature oats, which are a staple of my diet.  For athletes, oats are a terrific and inexpensive source of carbohydrates to help fuel muscles.  Also,  according to this study, oats might help enhance nitric oxide production, which is important for heart health and might benefit athletic performance.  This recipe is quite versatile, so create your own variation by modifying the dried fruit and nuts/seeds to suit your taste. These bars feature whole grains (oats and 100% whole wheat flour), are relatively low in fat, with most of the fat coming from healthful sources (nuts and seeds) that provide other important nutrients.

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites

These bites are simple to make, using only five ingredients. Their bite-size portion is often “just right,” so you can doll out energy as you need fuel during long hikes, runs, cross-country skis, or bike rides.

The oats and raisins are a good source of carbohydrates, the peanut butter provides healthy fats, rounded off with a double-chocolate hit of cocoa and chocolate chips.

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

These bars are dense and chewy and taste like brownies.  They are a bit of a departure from energy bars that are full of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and other wholesome ingredients —  which is the kind of bar I typically prefer on slower-paced  workouts, where the low intensity makes it easy to digest the seeds, nuts, fats, and fiber in the bars.  I like these bars for more intense workouts or intervals – when you need a burst of sweetness that goes down easily (kind of like an energy gel that actually tastes good).

For eating outside of workouts, this bar recipe is likely healthier than most cookies or bars.   Whole grains (whole wheat flour and oats) replace the more typical refined white flour (and you probably don’t need to worry about the gluten in the flour). I also used this baking strategy, substituting almond butter for most of the butter. Almond butter provides heart-healthy fats instead of saturated fat, as well as protein, fiber, and minerals that many people lack. Peanut butter works in these bars too (and is much less expensive!).

Sesame Date Energy Bites

These bites have a double sesame punch with sesame seeds and tahini (sesame butter): these little seeds are very nutritious and most often used as a garnish, so here’s a good way to take advantage of their superior nutrition.

I know, a refined cereal like Rice Krispies seems out of place with the rest of the wholesome ingredients, but the added crunch is worth it.  And if you’re going to eat refined carbs and sweet dates, during activity is the best time to do it:  your body processes the sugars to use as fuel and help sustain long workouts.

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Sesame Date Energy Bites

The  Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites worked out so well, I was inspired to figure out another simple “bite” recipe that athletes can use instead of commercial energy bars.  I found the small portion size is just right, allowing me to doll out energy as I need for long bike rides, roller skis, or runs.   These bites have a double sesame punch with sesame seeds and tahini (sesame butter): these little seeds are very nutritious and most often used as a garnish, so here’s a good way to take advantage of their superior nutrition.

This is a delicious “whole food” way to fuel your workout. I know, a refined cereal like Rice Krispies seems out of place with the rest of the wholesome ingredients, but the added crunch is worth it.  And if you’re going to eat refined carbs and sweet dates, during activity is the best time to do it, when your body processes the sugars to use as fuel and help sustain long workouts.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dates, chopped
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame butter)
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1-1/2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds

sesame bite ingredients 2Directions

  1. Place dates in food processor and process for about 30 seconds (until dates resemble a paste) – if your dates are very dry, add a bit of water – enough for dates to form a paste.
  2. Put tahini and chocolate chips in a small glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds, add to dates in food processor, and pulse until well incorporated.
  3. Add Rice Krispies to food processor and pulse a few times to mix them in (you don’t want to crush them into a puree).
  4. Using a wet tablespoon, scoop the mixture out of food processor and roll into balls in the palm of your hand (you should get about 12, but vary the size to suit your needs).  You might find this easier if you wet your hands to roll the balls.
  5. Put sesame seeds in a shallow bowl, and roll balls in sesame seeds until coated, pressing lightly so seeds will stick.
  6. Store in the fridge until hardened, about an hour. You can keep these in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 weeks, or freeze.

Nutrition Notes

  • sesame seeds sheilakealeydotcomSesame seeds may be small, but they are nutrient powerhouses! These little seeds are good sources of iron, calcium, and potassium (if you can find sesame seeds with hulls intact – they have more of these minerals, especially calcium). Like other seeds, sesame seeds contain healthful polyunsaturated fats, vitamin E, fiber, and a moderate amount of protein. Sesame seeds contain sesamin, a type of fiber with potential antihypertensive, cholesterol-lowering, lipid-lowering, and anticancer activities. Sesame seeds are also the richest nut and seed source of phytosterols, compounds that are being studied for their disease-fighting properties including reducing blood levels of cholesterol, enhancing immune response, and decreasing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
  • Sesame butter (tahini) has similar nutrients to sesame seeds, and has long been a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine. It is widely available, and is a main ingredient in hummus, a popular dip featuring garbanzo beans. You can use tahini in many dips and sauces. Often the oil rises to the top of a jar of tahini—be sure to mix in before using. If the tahini is too thick to spread, mix in a little hot water and lemon juice. For a sweet treat, spread tahini on whole grain toast and drizzle with a little honey. You’ll find some other great ideas for cooking with tahini here.

sesame bites row title centerNutrition Per Serving

  • 122 calories
  • 2.2 g protein
  • 19 g carbohydrate
  • 5.7 g fat
  • 0 mg cholesterol
  • 2.4 g fiber
  • 10.6 mg sodium
  • 171 mg potassium
  • 81 mg calcium
  • 34 mg magnesium
  • 2.6 mg iron

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This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

This week, read about burger love, cost benefits of cycling, recovery baths for athletes, belly fat, gluten and athletic performance, figuring out headaches, strength training for a faster 5k, the best guacamole, and an easy recipe for making your own energy bars.

PEI Burger Love
2015 Burger Love Winner

The caloric math of huge burgers. Prince Edward Island holds an annual month-long  “Burger Love” event (this April, 145,527 burgers were eating eaten across the island). These burgers pack a caloric punch – some up to 2,000 calories. This eating phenomenon got PEI resident and health/performance physiologist Jamie Burr curious about how much exercise you’d need to do to burn off one of these 1500-2000 calories burgers. For a 30-y-old, 170 lb, 5’11 male, it would take . . .

  • 7 hrs continuous walking
  • 280 min easy jogging
  • 3 hrs  leisurely cycling
  • 2.6 hrs  swimming

(Human Performance & Health Research Laboratory Exercise Physiology at UPEI)

Portion size is a big issue with these burgers (as with many restaurant meals). Seems like a good way to taste these burgers would be to share with others: spit into 4, the calorie count would certainly be more reasonable!

6 times more expensive to travel by car than by bicycle.  A cost-benefit analysis of Copenhagen cycling found it is 6 times more expensive for society – and for you individually – if you travel by car instead of cycling.  It is the first time a price has been put on car use as compared to cycling. The analysis looked at road wear, pollution, health, congestion, noise, travel route, climate change. (Ecological Economics, May 2015).

A recovery ice bath isn’t (always) such a good idea. Ice baths have been a popular recovery tool for athletes after workouts, and a increasing number of studies are examining the practice. Many studies are questioning the use of icing for injured muscles, with some research showing it might delay healing, hinder recovery, and interfere with performance gains.  (David Despain, Outside)

Mann mit bergewichtTarget belly fat with exercise. Not all body fat is the same – location matters. Belly fat is physiologically different from the fat beneath your skin (subcutaneous fat).  Fat around the waist is mostly “visceral” fat, which is metabolically active and can promote inflammation throughout the body, increasing disease risk. Visceral fat appears to be a key player in insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, and possibly brain tissue damage that could lead to cognitive decline. In terms of cancer risk, the AICR reports that for women, a waist measurement of 31.5 inches or more indicates higher cancer risk, and for men, a waist measurement of 37 inches or more indicates high risk. It seems exercise is more potent that diet at reducing belly fat, according to several studies.  (New York Times)

Canada Food Guide criticized for endorsing fruit juice as a fruit serving by Canadian Obesity Summit presenters. Here’s why most people should limit fruit juice.Slice of bread with Gluten text - Gluten Free diet concept

Gluten-free diet won’t help athletic performance. Some athletes eliminate gluten from their diet thinking it might help their athletic performance. A new study in competitive cyclists used a controlled randomized double-blind, cross-over design to examine the influence of gluten. The protocol was something like this: athletes ate Diet A for 7 days, followed by a 10-day washout, then Diet B for 7 days, and were blinded to the gluten status of the study diet to reduce potential placebo effects (Diet A contained gluten, while Diet B contained no gluten). Investigators found that a gluten-containing diet did not influence performance (15 km TT), GI symptoms, well-being, and other inflammatory markers or indicators of intestinal injury in non-celiac endurance athletes. (Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 May)

You can read more about the evidence for athletes avoiding gluten and grains here.

For headaches, a lifestyle change may be better than a doctor visit.  Despite an increasing number of headache sufferers looking for headache causes through advanced diagnostics, more tests aren’t usually better, are expensive,  and could be harmful. Experts say lifestyle changes are likely better at solving the problem. Lifestyle changes include identifying triggers and avoiding them, improving sleep, reducing stress, improving diet, and exercising). (NPR Health, reporting on J Gen Intern Med. 2015 May;30(5):548-55.)

Young woman stretching and working out in parkIs it better for runners to be flexible or stiff? It depends which muscles or tendons you’re talking about. Although some research shows that fast runners have less flexible calf muscles, a new study looking at tendon stiffness shows conflicting results. (Alex Hutchinson, Runner’s World).

Strength training leads to a faster 5km run time. A recent study reinforces the benefits of concurrent strength training for improved running performance, and questions the practice of stopping strength training to improve race times.  After 6 weeks of strength training and endurance training, athletes in the strength training group improved 5k run time (on average by 3.6% – that’s =43 seconds on a 20-min 5k!) but when they stopped their strength training for 6 weeks (but kept running), they lost their new-found speed.  Exercise physiologist Yann Le Meur illustrates the study in the infograph below (Yann LE MEUR  summary of  Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2015 May 6.)

Most elite endurance athletes periodize their strength training and follow an easier plan or don’t strength train at all during race season.  The study was in recreational athletes who may not have been doing interval training, so it’s tricky to draw conclusions for elite athletes. If you’re an endurance athlete who doesn’t strength train, it would be a good idea to start (for many reasons beyond race performance). If you’re someone who completely drops strength training during the competitive season, it might be worth staying in touch with some of those strength moves.

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Even a 2-minute walk can counter some harms of sitting. The evidence that sitting for extended periods is harmful for health is mounting, showing sitting increases risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, kidney problems and premature death. A new study found that every hour that overweight adults spent sitting (watching TV) increased diabetes risk 3.4 %.  A growing body of research is investigating the best way to break up sitting bouts.  New research shows that replacing just 2 minutes of sitting each hour with easy walking lowered risk of early death by a third. (Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times)

Sedentary behavior is an emerging field of research. Our bodies were made to move! Even if you’re an athlete, if you have a desk job, schedule movement breaks.  Make Time for Break Time shows you how different amounts of activity influence  indicators of cancer, and likely other chronic disease risk.

What really works against bug bites. Consumer Reports investigates new, safer options to keep mosquitoes and ticks at bay.  Products with milder, plantlike chemicals (Picaridin  and oil of lemon eucalyptus) were the most effective, outperforming products with harmful DEET.   (Consumer Reports)

AVOCADOS

The science behind the best (and healthiest) guacamole (Washington Post, ACS Reactions)

Make your own energy bar!

double chocolate energy bites bowl with textIf you are looking for a nutritious “whole food” way to fuel your workouts, these little bites are for you! They are simple to make, delicious, and a terrific alternative to commercial energy bars. Their bite-size portion is often “just right,” so you can doll out energy as you need fuel during long hikes, runs, cross-county skis, or bike rides. The oats and raisins are a good source of carbohydrates, the peanuts provide healthy fats, rounded off with a double-chocolate hit of cocoa and chocolate chips.

View Last Week in Food, Health, and Fitness (May 2-8, 2015)

TWFHF_May9

 

 

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Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites

If you are looking for a nutritious “whole food” way to fuel your workouts, these little bites are for you! They are simple to make, delicious, and a terrific alternative to commercial energy bars. Their bite-size portion is often “just right,” so you can doll out energy as you need fuel during long hikes, runs, cross-county skis, or bike rides. The oats and raisins are a good source of carbohydrates, the peanuts provide healthy fats, rounded off with a double-chocolate hit of cocoa and chocolate chips.

Interested in sports nutrition and the best way to fuel your workouts? Read more about energy bars and real food alternative to energy bars here, and nutrition strategies for optimal performance here.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1-1/2 cup rolled oats (quick, regular, or large – you’re going to grind them up anyways!)
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 2-3 tbsp. water (if needed)
Ingredients (640x396)
“All-star” nutritious ingredients – see Nutrition Notes below

Directions

  1. Place raisins and oats in food processor. Process for about 30 seconds.
  2. Put peanut butter and chocolate chips in a small measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds.
  3. Add peanut butter mixture and cocoa to oats and raisins in food processor and pulse until well incorporated. If the mixture looks a bit dry, add a little water and process again (1-2 tablespoons).
  4. Scoop the mixture out of food processor with a wet tablespoon to roll into balls in the palm of your hand (you should get about 16, but vary the size to suit your needs).  You might find this easier if you wet your hands to roll the balls.
  5. Store in the fridge until hardened, about an hour. You can keep these in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

energy bites row NEW

 Nutrition Notes

  • raisins_kealeyRaisins are a nutrient-rich and concentrated source of carbohydrates and minerals, and like grapes contain the phytochemical compound resveratrol, an antioxidant studied for its anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and cholesterol lowering effects.  For endurance athletes, raisins can fuel exercise, and research shows they perform as well as sports jelly beans, sports chews, or sports gels.Oats (with Path)
  • Oats are well-know for their cholesterol lowering properties, and recent research shows that they contain antioxidant compounds called avenanthramides that help decrease chronic inflammation that can lead to disease.
  • peanutsPeanuts have similar health benefits to other nuts, but are much more economical. They are a decent source of protein (about 7 g per 2 tbsp peanut butter), and are also a good source of the antioxidant resveratrol. Although some people consider nuts fattening, added to a healthy diet they do not promote weight gain, and have many health benefits, including reducing heart disease risk.  Peanuts and peanut butter might also help control blood sugar and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to this study in women. And another study suggested that replacing a serving of red meat with a serving of nuts would decrease type 2 diabetes risk by 21%.
  • cocoa powder (514x510) (2)Cocoa contains compounds called flavanols that have been found to  lower blood pressure and improve endothelial function, neutralize inflammation, increase healthy HDL’s, dilate blood vessels, help prevent atherosclerosis, and increase nitric oxide production (which has heart and potential endurance exercise benefits). You can find out more about cocoa and flavanols here.

Nutrition Per Serving

One serving=one energy bite

  • 105 calories
  • 3 g protein
  • 17 g carbohydrate
  • 4 g fat
  • 0 mg cholesterol
  • 2.5 g fiber
  • 5 mg sodium
  • 180 mg potassium
  • 11 mg calcium
  • 31 mg magnesium
  • 1 mg iron

More Foods to Fuel Your Workouts

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Sheila’s Quick & Easy Oatmeal Bars

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